by Taylor Williams
October 30, 2009 –
All coaches know that championships aren’t won overnight, regardless of the sport,
the players, or the competition. But what about defending them? According to Mark Bonis, head football coach of the Brother Martin Crusaders, defending championships is even more difficult than winning them. In his first season as head coach of the Crusaders, Coach Bonis faces the mountainous task of defending the Catholic League title from contending rivals, including Archbishop Rummel, St Augustine, and Shaw. As a rookie at the head coaching position, Bonis has relied on his past experience as the Crusaders’ offensive coordinator, as well as a cohesive unit of assistant coaches to lead the Brother Martin squad to an impressive 5-1 start. In addition to his rookie coaching status, Bonis’ team suffers from lack of experience and injuries, two factors which are beyond the scope of his control. The question remains: can a team with a rookie head coach and inexperienced players possibly defend its title? The answer is a resounding yes, and the formula is simple: one week at a time. The Crusaders offense has shown steady improvement throughout the season, led by the 1-2 punch of running backs Daunte Butler and Chris Sutton. Butler, who has rushed for over 600 yards in several seasons with the Crusaders, lines up behind a solid offensive line that has consistently displayed outstanding leadership this season, as it represents the unit with the most returning starters. Thus the primary issue to be resolved as the season progresses lies in the quarterback position. Breaking from the traditional drop-back, pocket passing style of quarterback play, the man leading the Crusaders’ offense can implement many formations, from the spread to the option to take advantage of the solid offensive line and supplemental running attack. On the defensive side of the ball, starting defensive backs Pat Swilling and Carl Butler round out a secondary which is experienced and versatile, but it has been the defensive line which has truly stepped up this year. A major liability going into this year, the Crusaders’ linemen have had to fill some very big shoes, and have responded to the task by exemplifying improved play from week to week. The kind of steady improvement that has been displayed on both sides of the ball corresponds perfectly to Coach Bonis’ philosophy of taking the season one game at a time. When asked about the prospects for next season, Bonis’ reply was short and simple: “We aren’t thinking about next season. There’s just too much work to be done right now to even begin to look beyond the next game.” Words which echo that of many great NFL coaches, whose blueprints for success have a narrowly defined objective: the upcoming game. No dwelling on the past, no pondering the post game championship celebration. As the Crusaders aim to defend the Catholic League title, the abilities to remain resilient from the past and to rise to the occasion in the future slowly mesh together to focus the team’s energy entirely on the present. And that’s exactly how the Crusaders plan to stay on top.